Climate change as a ballot question could make this year’s federal election in Canada “the most important of our lives,” writes Gideon Forman, climate policy analyst for the David Suzuki Foundation, in a post for the Ottawa Citizen.
“Every ballot contest matters, but the consequences of getting it wrong in October would be devastating—at least where climate change is concerned,” Forman states. “Our top priority in the remaining months of 2019 should be putting climate protection on all parties’ platforms.”
A quick look at the Canadian scene for climate politics underscores the urgency.
Despite last year’s landmark IPCC report laying out a 12-year deadline to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 45%, “climate action is losing ground—in Ontario, of course, but also in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and, quite likely this spring, Alberta. Federal policies that ignore global warming could make an already worrying situation far worse,” he writes.
“We mustn’t erect new barriers to the widespread adoption of renewables. We can’t afford to expand fossil fuel infrastructure. And goodness knows we shouldn’t pull out of the Paris Agreement, precisely when international climate accords need to be strengthened. But these possibilities could become reality this fall.”
Forman doesn’t dispute the need for a deeper cultural shift that would in turn change the narrative at election time. “But if we win strong climate policy, we’ll be better positioned to bring the broad cultural shift into being.” Those policies “would include a price on carbon pollution, robust support for wind and solar power, generous funding for public transit, and continued commitment to the national coal phaseout.”
And as their effects played out, citizens at large “might see that climate initiatives bring personal benefits (such as fewer asthma attacks), and this could spark their openness to other changes (like leaving the car at home or eating less meat) that also foster health. Thus could begin the path to systemic change.”
But the first step down that road begins at the ballot box, Forman concludes. “Let’s act honourably on the most pressing issue of our day while we still have time.”